Human Nutrition and Dietetics student hopes to taste success through leadership programme

Tue, 07 Sep 2021 16:19:00 BST
Vasiliki has her own Instagram and YouTube channel aimed at educating people about food
Vasiliki has her own Instagram and YouTube channel aimed at educating people about food

A GCU student is set to take part in a UK-wide initiative, which aims to develop future leaders within the world of healthcare.

First year Human Nutrition and Dietetics student Vasiliki Papadopoulou hopes her experience on the Council of Deans of Health’s Student Leadership Programme 2021 will provide the perfect recipe for her future.

Vasiliki explained how pleased she is to get the opportunity and what she’ll be getting involved in over the next academic year.

She said: “I was so shocked when I got the email to tell me I’d been successful – I actually started screaming because it was that unexpected!

I also didn’t realise how big a deal it was for the University and the opportunities that would come from it! My lecturers have been emailing me congratulations and asking me to speak to different classes about the programme, which was totally unexpected.

I’m really happy that I’ll be taking part but there’s also a little bit of nerves around the fear of the unknown - but that’s matched by the excitement!”

Vasiliki added: “We will be getting together this month for a welcome event in Reading. This will be my chance to meet other participants from across the UK and we also get different talks and activities around leadership.

We then choose a project to do within our profession or something that addresses the welfare of students and staff. Each participant is assigned a personal tutor for additional support throughout this. We’ve also been matched up with individuals who have been involved in the programme before, which has been really useful for helping us to know what to expect.

The overall objective is to develop our leadership skills and gain the confidence that will benefit us for working beyond University.”

This will be the fifth year that the programme has run and Vasiliki will be joined by students from a range of health disciplines, such as: Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy.

It’s a great chance for those involved to boost their CV for the world beyond University, however Vasiliki hopes it will benefit her on a much more personal level.

She explained: “I really hope this programme will help provide me with further confidence to continue some of the work I’m doing already and with the knowledge of how to support others.

I’ve created a YouTube channel because I really want to educate people and help them make better choices when it comes to food. I’ve been through an eating disorder and I’ve realised how important education around nutrition is.

I feel like everyone is looking for the next magical cure or another detox tea to help them look better. It saddens me that I see so much obsession with losing weight and looking a certain way – rather than people feeling like they themselves are enough.”

Vasiliki added: “I have a lot of friends and family who don’t actually understand protein, carbohydrates and fats and they don’t actually realise how it all works with the body. I knew about these things because I was a personal trainer and had some knowledge but it made me decide to make a video around basic nutrition.

Through Instagram, I’ve also been trying to help people realise that they can still eat things they enjoy while being healthy. You always see pasta and chocolate being spoken about negatively but it’s much more important to think about how much you’re eating and what you’re having it with.”

Her work on Instagram and YouTube has provided the perfect escape for Vasiliki during what has been a challenging first year of University. However, despite completing online learning from her home in Greece, she has loved her experience at GCU so far.

Vasiliki said: “I feel our lecturers and tutors have done an amazing job for us as students. I’m not saying that to make them like me or anything – I do actually feel they’ve done the best they can!

I’m obviously in Greece just now and see how bad the situation is. Students here have had massive problems with online education and it’s been terrible for them.”

She added: “There have definitely been times where it has been difficult in terms of mental health. Every day is the same – you need to be really disciplined! It’s not easy being in your bedroom because you shouldn’t sleep in your work space or work in your sleep space!

If you want to leave home in Greece then you need to send a text message with your justification and If the police catch you without it then you have a real problem. I understand it and appreciate it’s for a good cause but the impact on mental health has been very difficult.

The good part about all of this though is that I’ve got to spend so much more time with my family – which is something I’ve really missed!”

You can find out more about the Council of Deans of Health's Student Leadership Programme through their Google podcasts, which features students and professionals who have previously been involved.

By Ross Clark        
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